The Flight of the Sparrow : A Novel of Early America by Amy Belding Brown

Flight of the SparrowBrown’s fictional account of a real life settler in Massachusetts is a perfect example of what historical fiction should do: open a window into a life you cannot begin to understand. Mary Rowlandson is a married woman living the good Puritan life in a small frontier settlement in 1676. Her husband, the minister, is very strict with his wife and children, living according to the rules of the church. For example, children should not be coddled or fussed over, and adults are not meant to get too attached to them. If a child dies, it is as God ordained and one should not grieve. Also, you cannot give sympathy or care to another member of the congregation who has sinned unless they have been forgiven by the congregation. Mary is a believer, yet finds the strictness difficult at times, especially in relation to children. She goes against her husband’s wishes to bring food to a young, unwed mother and her baby.

As the threat of Indian attacks grows greater, Mary’s husband and her brother-in-law go to Boston to ask the Governor for protection for their town. Sadly, the expected attack comes while they are gone. Mary witnesses the brutal murder of her sister, her nephews, and several neighbors before being kidnapped. The prisoners are then forced to march to the Indian camp. Mary carries her injured youngest daughter for days until her daughter dies from her wounds. When they arrive, Mary is separated from her older children and given to the warrior woman who is the leader of these Indians. It takes her a while to realize the horrible truth: she has now become a slave. Mary survives, though, and even begins to find some of the Indian ways appealing during her eleven weeks of captivity.

The real Mary Rowlandson was ransomed by the settlers and returned to her old life. She wrote a book about her experiences, which was one of the first accounts of captivity written by an American settler. Amy Belding Brown used that book as the basis for her story, but has gone beyond to imagine what Mary might have felt about her experience, and how she might have been changed by it. This was a wonderful novel that I would highly recommend to fans of historical fiction, or anyone who wants to learn a little more about American History.

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